All that any lay reader is ever likely to wish to know about Peter the Great, that strange and rather terrifying figure who ruled Russia from the close of the 17th century to 1725, will doubtless be found somewhere in the 490 pages of text and footnotes of this volume. It does not make for easy reading, as the author infrequently makes use of his prerogative of selecting from a hundred small facts those few which are most germane to the narrative. Nor is he altogether free from bias. His view is that Peter was a kind of master-shepherd who hustled his reluctant flock from horrid old medieval pastures into splendid modern ones, and what difference do a few flaws like cruelty, cowardice, and narrow-mindedness make? There is quite a bit of special pleading in these pages but there is also a huge amount of history packed into them, and a serious student of Russia will probably find the book indispensable.